A-List Studio Drummer V1.1 Operation Manual

A-List Studio Drummer V1.1 Operation Manual
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Propellerhead Software AB.
©2016 Propellerhead Software and its licensors. All specifications subject to change without notice. Reason,
Reason Essentials and Rack Extension are trademarks of Propellerhead Software. All other commercial symbols
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A-List Studio Drummer
A-List Studio Drummer combines the living and breathing performance of a session drummer with the sonic
versatility and competence of a professional engineer in a world-class recording studio - all in one easy-to-use Rack
A-List Studio Drummer features a selection of professionally recorded drum kits and groove styles, integrated with
professional mixing gear, all waiting to be fired off and arranged using your MIDI controller in real-time. With A-List
Studio Drummer you'll be producing professional drum tracks in no time.
A-List Studio Drummer has been developed for everyone who finds drum loops too limiting and programming MIDI
drum arrangements too tedious or challenging. Laying down a drum tracks is now super easy:
Select a Drum kit and a Style, control the drum performance in real-time by selecting song parts from a MIDI
keyboard - A-List Studio Drummer will play along, always perfectly in sync with your performance.
Like in the real world - the drum kit is professionally mic'ed up and mixed, with the most powerful options available for
you to get exactly the sound you want.
Of course, the individual instruments are available for you as well, and they can even be triggered from other Rack
Extensions - such as (drum) sequencers or arpeggiators.
A-List Studio Drummer is a part of Propellerhead's A-List series of session players for Reason and Reason
Essentials. You may also want to check out the A-List Guitarist series which works well with the A-List Studio
Drummer Rack Extension.
How is A-List Studio Drummer supposed to be used?
Think of A-List Studio Drummer as a professional session drummer, playing live performances on a top-notch drum
kit in the drum room of a professional recording studio, and mixed using a fully-featured mixing console boasting
EQs, compressors, multi-band compressors and other elements per channel and bus. A powerful, yet easy-to-use set
of controls gives you deep control over the performance, kit and microphone settings as well as the final mix - lay
down drum tracks exactly the way you want them.
At the core of all instruments of the Propellerhead A-List series is the idea that you can create professional sounding
instrument tracks exactly the way you would get them from an A-List player in the studio. There, you'd give them a
lead sheet, adjust sound character and mix, and tell your player what kind of musical style and performance you're
expecting, and a great player would deliver exactly that.
A-List Studio Drummer does exactly that for you: the song parts becomes MIDI notes in your Reason tracks (or
played live on a MIDI controller), there are controls for drum kit and mix, you load Styles and select Parts in real-time,
there are performance controls to vary the performance, and last but not least you can choose from a variety of
adjustable mixing console settings. Whatever A-List Studio Drummer does, it does extremely well, fast, and asking
absolute minimal effort of you. We never sacrificed instant gratification and simplicity in favor of a more complex
What is the “Studio” title about?
"Studio" in A-List Studio Drummer means that this device mimics a very versatile studio drummer who is at home in
a broad range of playing styles, musical genres and eras.
It's actually you who specifies your desired drum style by either selecting presets, picking kits or selecting/adjusting
the overall sound of your drummer.
Try it now - it's easy and fun!
A-List Studio Drummer is designed for creating stunning dynamic performances using only a MIDI keyboard (even
Reason's on-screen keyboard if you know how to switch octaves), and very simple commands. The perfectly played
phrases and styles all come built in. All you need to do is tell your drummer when to kick in, which phrases to play and
when to throw in a fill or break. You can even dynamically control how hard your drummer hits the drums - for extra
dynamic expression.
Here's how it basically works - and we encourage you to try it now:
1. Create an A-List Studio Drummer device in the rack.
It will load a default Style that's all you need for now.
2. Activate the Hold button (this is the mode we generally recommend for using A-List Studio Drummer):
3. Hit key C3 on your MIDI Keyboard and A-List Studio Drummer will start playing Verse.
4. Move up the white keys to go from Verse to Chorus and other parts.
Watch the "Part" display in the Performance Section. Notice how parts played by white keys keep looping.
5. Now try black keys - watching the Part display in the center of the front panel - and notice how they behave differently.
Intros play only once and then fall back to a Verse or Chorus, and so do Fills, while Breakdowns play while you hold
them, and Endings finish off the song.
To gradually tweak the performance, turn the Mod Wheel up and notice how the drummer gradually goes
Move the Pitch wheel up to mute the kick drum, or down to mute the snare.
This is great for intermezzos and lead-ins.
Let's move to the built-in "Recording room", the Source section:
6. Keep a groove playing, and go through the various Drum kits in the Source section.
Notice how they are descriptively named from soft to hard. Try the various microphone level controls from Kick to
Room and notice their impact on the sound of the drum kit.
Finally, you'll set up the mix in the Mix section of A-List Studio Drummer:
7. In the Mix section, turn the Amount control about 75% up.
8. Now select different Mix Console Setups by clicking on the buttons and notice the differences.
Play with the Amount control to learn how you can gradually set the drum sound from "all natural" to "all console".
9. Finally, try the Slam Control. It's exactly what the name says: a really powerful compressor.
It is important to know that A-List Studio Drummer does neither require you to know how to play a drum kit on a
keyboard, nor to think about how to emulate realistic drum techniques. It has all that built in, simply because it is
based on actual drum performances. What A-List Studio Drummer emulates is therefore a studio drummer who
already knows how to play.
Because when you have an idea in your head and want to lay it down, the last thing you want is struggle with MIDI
editing and trying to make a MIDI performance sound realistic. What you need is a professional player recording your
idea the way you want it.
The foundation of all styles and phrases of A-List Studio Drummer are live performances of professional drummers.
During the sessions for A-List Studio Drummer, hours of live performances of professional drummers were recorded
to pre-recorded instrument tracks on a high-end virtual drum kit for meticulous timing and feel. Subsequently, they
were optimized to match the dynamic response of the drum kits built into A-List Studio Drummer to re-create the
groove and feel of the original performance.
But what's more: Because the actual notes, drum sounds and mixing gear are separated inside A-List Studio
Drummer, you can play any groove with any kit and any mix, and also flexibly customize the drum track to your
musical taste and mix.
Panel overview
The A-List Studio Drummer front panel contains the following sections:
A-List Studio Drummer front panel sections.
• 1. Source section (for selecting kits and adjusting microphone levels).
• 2. Performance section (for telling the Drummer what and how to play).
• 3. Mix section (for choosing and adjusting the setup of the mixing console).
• 4. Patch selector (for browsing, loading and saving patches).
Loading and saving patches
Loading and saving patches is done in the same way as with any other internal Reason/Reason Essentials device see the “Sounds and Patches” chapter in the Reason/Reason Essentials Operation Manual PDF for details.
On instantiating A-List Studio Drummer, or when loading Combinator Patches featuring A-List Studio Drummer, it can take a few seconds until all content is loaded into RAM.
Panel controls
Source section
In this section you can select a Drum Kit and adjust the microphone levels of the various instrument groups.
Drum Kit
Turn the selector switch to select a Drum Kit. Each Kit Preset represents a physical drum kit - i.e. selection of
instruments (Kick, Snare, Toms, …) as well as their tunings, microphone selections and settings - all adjusted to work
well together as a whole.
We chose descriptive kit names to make it easy for you. The following table provides you with additional detail and
should help you choosing the right kit for any situation:
Warm, soft kit, ranging from very low to … whenever you need subtle drums that don't dominate the song and where the
mid dynamics (soft to medium hits).
drummer never hits hard.
Deep, full drum kit, providing a strong
… particularly in grooving acoustic music, but generally anywhere where you
need the drum kit to provide bottom end and foundation.
The most natural, generic kit.
… for a wide range of styles, because it's a great starting point and very versatile.
If you're unsure, start with Natural Kit.
Small, tight kit with a light, punchy
… in Funk, Hip-Hop, R’n’B and generally when you need the kit to support the
groove with lots of punchy transients and without sounding too deep or hard.
Very punchy kit, hit extra hard, lots of
attack transients.
… in Rock and Modern Rock. Pretty much the opposite of Soft Kit - use this one
when you need a kit cutting through with a strong foundation and lots of punch.
Microphone levels
With these knobs you can adjust the individual volumes of instruments or instrument groups (Ride, Crash, Toms).
Microphone levels vary greatly depending on taste and musical style. Here are a few general tips if you're not familiar
with drum recording:
• The top six knobs (HiHat, Ride, Crash, Kick, Snare, Toms) control the levels of direct microphones put close to
the individual drums and cymbals.
The knobs will also remain in effect when you route these instruments via the individual audio outputs on the rear
panel (see “Audio Outputs”).
• The Overheads (or Overhead microphones) are a pair of microphones hanging left and right over the head of
the drummer and picking up mainly the cymbals, but also a strong bleed signal from the other drums.
Therefore, don't be surprised if you turn down individual microphones and still hear the instrument. Overheads are
used to create the stereo image and pick up transients as well as a coherent mix of the kit.
• The Room control adjusts the level of a pair of microphones placed at the back of the drum recording chamber,
left and right behind the drum kit.
This is not a Reverb, (there's an extra control for that in the Mix section), but a dense, short room signal, great for
adding depth and live feel to the drum kit.
Performance section
This section is a mixture of selectors, knobs and displays for selecting, adjusting and monitoring the musical
About Styles and Parts
Although you can play individual drum hits, A-List Studio Drummer is designed to play drum performances - i.e. all you
need to do is tell your drummer which part to play when, and it will create a complete song in a specific style.
Accordingly, in A-List Studio Drummer, drum performances are organized into Styles and Parts. There are 30 Styles,
each covering a particular groove. Styles are broken down into song Parts: You got Intros, Verses, Choruses,
Breakdowns, Fills, Endings, and bonus parts called “Special”.
In this menu, you can select one of the 30 Styles. Each Style features 24 individual Parts (see “Song Parts and how
to play them”). Styles are not editable, but you can build your own by using the CV Inputs on the rear panel (see “CV
This readout displays the song Part currently selected by incoming MIDI note information (see “MIDI keyboard
Song Parts and how to play them
• A Style always contains 24 song Parts, functionally laid out across the MIDI keyboard from C3 and upwards.
• All Parts always play in sync with the main sequencer in Reason/Reason Essentials.
This means you can jump between song Parts freely without retriggering the song Part. This is great for creating
lively, non-repetitive drum performances.
• Of each group in the Part - Intro, Verse, Chorus and so on - there are variations, increasing in intensity as you
go up the keyboard.
Some of those song Parts loop, some play only once after you hit the key, while others only play while you hold a
Also, usually song Parts assigned to white keys are the looping Parts - Verses, Choruses, Special. In Hold mode,
they keep repeating until you hit a different key.
• Parts that start, end, or break up the song such as Intros, Fills, Breakdowns and Endings are assigned to black
These Parts usually play only once after you select them, or play only as long as you hold the key (in Hold mode).
The following table explains the various Part categories and how to play them:
White key Part Black key Part Description
How to play
Intro 1
Plays a short intro and continues with selected
looped part.
Intro 2
Plays a longer intro and continues with selected
With playback stopped, play key.
looped part. Can be interrupted anytime by selecting a white key part.
Verse 1-5
5 verse variations in ascending order of intensity.
Fill 1-3
With playback stopped, play key.
Hit key to select. Verses keep playing until another
part is selected.
Hit key to select. While a Fill is playing, you can select
the subsequent part, otherwise it will fall back to the
previously selected looped part.
Chorus 1-5
5 chorus variations in ascending order of intensity. Hit key to select. Choruses keep playing until another
part is selected.
Special 1-4
Extra groove variations and "bonus" parts in ascending order of intensity.
Hit key to select. Special parts keep playing until another part is selected.
Breakdown 1-3
Use these song parts whenever you want to tem- Plays immediately as long as you hold the key and falls
porarily vary/tone down the drum performance.
back to previously selected part after releasing it.
Ending 1
Plays a short ending immediately.
Hit the key at any time in the part to trigger the ending.
You may want to quantize the note after recording it.
Ending 2
Plays a longer ending at the end of the current
Hit the key anytime, the ending will play automatically
at the next possible position, playback will stop.
About Crash Cymbals in the Parts
A-List Studio Drummer will automatically play Crash cymbals when it falls back from a Fill into a Looped Part.
Technically, the first cymbal hit (HiHat or Ride) at the beginning of the part following the Fill will be replaced by a
Crash Cymbal. This ensures that A-List Studio Drummer plays Crashes in line with your individual performance, in a
musically sensible way.
You can also manually add Crash Cymbals by using the MIDI notes C#2 or A2. Make sure to quantize your
Crash Cymbal events.
If on, A-List Studio Drummer will keep playing after keys are released, until either Hold is switched off or the Stop
button in Reason/Reason Essentials is pressed while it’s playing.
A Sustain Pedal can be used as a temporary Hold (but does not affect the appearance of the Hold switch). Lifting the
Sustain Pedal stops the performance when no keys are held.
We recommend that you generally keep Hold on and stop playback using the Stop key (B2). It is way easier to
use A-List Studio Drummer that way, as you don't have to worry about note lengths, particularly when using
fills, intros or ending - just fire off trigger notes.
This three-way switch allows you to set the drummer to half time or double time in relation to the song tempo.
This knob gradually applies a shuffle feel to the drum performance by delaying the offbeats.
Depending on the selected style, 8th or 16th note offbeats will be affected. At maximum position, the offbeat will
have the same timing as the last note of a triplet.
Not all phrases contain 8th or 16th note offbeats - in these cases the Swing control has no effect.
With this control you can tell the virtual Drummer to push or play laid back, i.e. it affects the overall timing of the drum
performance. Right from center, offbeats will be slightly advanced (Push), left from center they will be delayed (Pull).
Using this knob you can gradually quantize the drummer's performance. In the center position, the timing of drum hits
will be exactly like the drummer played it when recording the performance.
In the minimum knob position, the timing will get more loose, as the subtle deviations of the drummer's performance
get increased.
As you turn the knob to the right, hits will get moved towards the perfect quantize grid position.
Mix section
This section is designed to provide you with maximum control over the sound with a minimum set of controls - but
don't be fooled: under the hood, you're programming a fully-featured mixing console with channel strips, busses and
insert processors.
If you prefer to mix the drums yourself using your own channel strips, audio processing and mixing techniques, you
can totally do so by using the individual outputs on the rear panel of A-List Studio Drummer and routing them to
mixer channels or Rack devices (see “Audio Outputs”).
Mixing Console Presets
The combination of six Mixing Console Presets, an Amount control and a Reverb knob gives you extremely versatile
control over the drum sound without requiring any sound engineering skills.
The six buttons in the upper half of the Mix section select the like-named Mixing Console Presets - i.e. each button
sets hundreds of parameters of A-List Studio Drummer’s built-in mixing console. Again, the preset names should be
quite telling.
Here is a detailed description:
Tamed in the mid range, with subtle upper range. Only sub- acoustic, natural sounding mixes, e.g. Large studio recording room.
tle dynamic treatment.
in Songwriter, Indie or Country music.
Use for...
"Rehearsal Room" sound - raw, powerful mids, medium
compression, wall reflections.
creating drums that bite, e.g. in Garage, Drum booth with tiled walls.
Punk, EDM.
Tape machine and analog console kind of sound, perfect
for the 70s and earlier.
aging the sound of the drum kit, e.g. for Old drum booth with stone/
60s/70s impression.
wooden walls.
Sound of a big stage, subtle dynamics and EQ for a more
present sound
the typical sonic image of 80s, soft
rock and ballads.
Empty rock concert hall.
Strong dynamic processing for extra punch, EQ-ing for
all kinds of Rock.
Recording Room of a small
Exaggerated compression, medium EQ-ing and subtle dis- a crushed, "low bit-rate drum loop"
Concrete room.
sound for Punk, Sound Design, Experimental, EDM.
The key control here is the Amount knob. It lets you set your preferred balance between a neutral setting of the
Mixing Console and the preset’s most extreme setting. This is not a simple Dry/Wet control, but actually a macro
control, turning the mixing console's parameter individually under the hood.
The Mixing console preset also includes a reverb preset to make sure the room ambiance matches the purpose. The
Reverb knob lets you dial in room as you wish. It is independent from the Amount knob, so you're free e.g. to have a
fully unprocessed kit with the large studio room from the Soft Mix preset.
Adjusts the audio output volume of A-List Studio Drummer for maintaining an optimal input level into the mixer or
subsequent audio processors.
MIDI keyboard layout
Drum kit & Drummer MIDI keyboard layout
Breakdown 3
Special 4
Breakdown 2
Special 3
Breakdown 1
Special 2
Special 1
Chorus 5
Ending: Long
Ending: Short
Chorus 4
Chorus 3
Fill 3
Chorus 2
Chorus 1
Fill 1
Verse 5
Verse 4
Verse 3
Intro (Long)
Intro (Short)
Verse 2
Verse 1
Unmute Instrument
Stop (when Hold is active)
Mute Instrument
Crash 2
HH Half Open
Ride Bell
Crash 1
HH Open
HH Foot Closed
Hi Tom
HH Closed
Mid Tom
Low Tom
Snare Rimshot
Snare Sidestick
Fill 2
Drummer (rhythms)
Drum kit (individual sounds)
The MIDI keyboard layout for A-List Studio Drummer.
The MIDI keyboard (or - for that matter - any controller that can send MIDI notes) either gives you extensive real-time
control over the drummer's performance and lets you play the individual kit instruments - both are available at the
same time.
The Kit Instrument mapping conforms to the GM Drum instrument layout - which means you can use A-List Studio
Drummer to play GM-compatible drum midi files too. Individual drum hits are assigned to the octaves C1-A2, and the
Style Control section is assigned to the C3-B4 range of the keyboard.
• The layout has been designed so even if you have only a 2-octave keyboard, you can control A-List Studio
Drummer in a useful way, particularly when using the octave transpose button that most keyboards offer.
• With a 4-octave keyboard you have full access to all kit instruments plus all phrases at the same time.
Keyboard layout: Drummer
The following table shows you the MIDI notes that control the drummer's performance - starting and stopping as well
as selecting song Parts.
White keys
Loop Mode
Stop (when Hold is active)
Verse 1
Temporary Mode
Intro 1 (Short)
Intro 2 (Long)
Fill 1
Fill 2
Fill 3
Ending: Short
Ending 2: Long (often with Fill)
Breakdown 1
Breakdown 2
Breakdown 3
Verse 2
Verse 3
Verse 4
Verse 5
Chorus 1
Chorus 2
Chorus 3
Black keys
Chorus 4
Chorus 5
Special 1
Special 2
Special 3
Special 4
You can temporarily exclude individual instruments from phrase playback by muting them with key G#2 and
unmuting them with key Bb2, see “Mute Mode” below.
Keyboard layout: Drum kit
The Drum kit section of the MIDI keyboard lets you play the entire drum kit, add individual hits, or use A-List Studio
Drummer to playback MIDI files with drum grooves that conform to the GM standard.
The GM standard reserves keys for instruments that are not available in A-List Studio Drummer, such as Hand Clap
(D#1) or Chinese Cymbal (D2). These keys are unassigned so your MIDI files will always play back correctly.
Drum sound
C1 (#48)
Snare Sidestick
Snare Rimshot
Low Tom
HH Closed
Mid Tom
HH Foot Closed
HH Open
Hi Tom
Crash 1
Ride Bell
HH Half Open
Mute Instrument
Unmute Instrument
Crash 2
Mute Mode
You can temporarily exclude individual instruments from phrase playback with keys G#2 and Bb2:
Hold key G#2 and press an instrument key to mute the instrument (exclude it from phrase playback).
Hold key Bb2 and press the instrument key to unmute it again.
Note that you are still able to play the individual instrument hits while the instrument is muted. This way, you
can e.g. mute the snares from phrase playback to play them manually yourself.
Creating complex performances
Using the CV/Gate inputs (see “CV Inputs”) on the rear panel of A-List Studio Drummer, you can use external
devices such as the Matrix pattern sequencer to create complex sequences of song parts in A-List Studio Drummer.
The note mapping is exactly the same as described above.
MIDI Controllers
A-List Studio Drummer allows you to use the Pitch bend and Modulation controllers to control your drummer's
playing style in real-time. Combined with Part switching, this can go as far as playing your own drum solos!
Pitch Bend
The Pitch Bend controller functions like a three way switch. It tells the drummer to leave either the Kick or the Snare
Drum alone. This is particularly useful for creating additional dynamic variation.
Turn the Pitch Bend controller up to remove the Kick Drum from the currently playing groove - e.g. for leading
into solos or before a fill.
Turn the Pitch Bend controller down to remove the Snare, e.g. for Intermezzos.
Mod Wheel
The Modulation controller (usually a wheel) is an extremely powerful dynamic control:
Turn the Mod Wheel up to make the drummer gradually lower the playing intensity.
Note that this is not a volume fade-out, the drummer really hits less hard. The musical term for turning the
Modulation wheel up is "Decrescendo", turning it down creates a "Crescendo".
Crescendo lets you add extra dynamics to Verses, Breakdowns, Fills and other elements of drum performances.
Of course you can also create your own Intros or Outros that way by combining this technique with any song parts.
Sustain Pedal
The Sustain Pedal functions as a temporary Hold switch. For more details please see “Hold”.
If you want to take your drum programming, arranging or mixing up a notch, make use of the inputs and outputs on
the rear panel. Whether you want to trigger/control/sequence A-List Studio Drummer from an external CV/Gate
device or route individual instrument audio signals into an external drum mixer - it's all possible here.
Remember that CV connections are NOT stored in the A-List Studio Drummer patches! If you want to store CV
connections between devices, put them in a Combinator device and save the Combi patch.
CV Inputs
The global Note and Gate CV inputs give you the same control over A-List Studio Drummer as a MIDI keyboard does,
except you can use external rack devices for sending Gate and Note CV signals.
This is what you can do:
• Sequence song parts using a step or matrix sequencer.
The velocity of the input CV will have no effect on drum parts.
• Add individual drum hits from a drum sequencer or the CV outputs of a drum machine such as Redrum or Kong.
The individual drum sounds react velocity-sensitive, so that accents or various velocity levels are properly played
• You can sequence drum parts and at the same time add individual hits using the same device, if the device is
capable of sending polyphonic notes, and allows you to map notes according to A-List Studio Drummer’s keyboard mapping, see “MIDI keyboard layout”.
CV Gate Inputs
These inputs are trigger inputs for individual drum instruments. They are velocity sensitive. Use these to play A-List
Studio Drummer’s drum instruments from an external drum sequencer or drum machine with individual Gate outputs.
CV Gate Outputs
Reversely to the CV Gate inputs, you can use the CV Gate outputs to send CV Gate signals to external rack devices
to trigger external drum sounds from A-List Studio Drummer, double the Kick Drum with a bass, control effects thanks to the rack, the possibilities are limitless.
Unlike the CV Gate inputs, the outputs are not exclusive, i.e. connecting an instrument’s CV Gate output will not mute
the instrument. This makes sense for many reasons: It allows you to double A-List Studio Drummer with external
sound sources, either to create new sounds, to beef up existing ones, or to use an instrument’s gate signal as a
control signal without affecting A-List Studio Drummer’s output.
If you do want to mute an instrument (e.g. replace the kick drum by a sound from Redrum), you can still turn down the
corresponding Level control on the front panel of A-List Studio Drummer, see “Microphone levels”.
Audio Outputs
There are individual audio outputs for the drum instruments and busses inside A-List Studio Drummer, as well as
Main audio outputs for the complete mix.
• There are mono outputs for individual instruments at the top and stereo outputs for busses at the bottom.
Use these outputs to route individual channels into external audio devices for separate processing, bypassing the
built-in Mixing Console of A-List Studio Drummer.
• When you connect an individual audio output, that particular channel is taken off the sum output of
A-List Studio Drummer, before it goes into the Mix section.
This can affect the dynamics of the stereo sum (e.g. by taking the Kick off the Slam compressor).
• When you have connected all individual audio outputs, the stereo sum of A-List Studio Drummer will still carry
the Reverb signal so you can use this as a separate Reverb bus.
You can select different rooms by selecting Mix presets in the Mix section. The Amount control in the Mix section
will affect the Reverb sound, while Slam will not.
• To the right are the Main audio stereo outputs.
When you create a new A-List Studio Drummer device, these outputs are auto-routed to the first available Mix
Channel in the Reason/Reason Essentials main mixer.
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